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Officials Want to Arm Civilians After Militant Attacks in Kenya

By Mohammed Yusuf June 09, 2017

After a wave of attacks on security forces in northeastern Kenya, local officials are threatening to arm civilians.

The officials blame the national government for failing to protect them, and say they are losing essential services after teachers and health workers stopped coming to work.

Barre Shill, a member of parliament from Garissa County, says locals are tired of terror attacks and concerned about the future of their children.

"You cannot always be killed and maimed by armed terrorists, and yet we are not being protected," Shill said. "We have lost teachers, we have lost medical staff. Now we are not getting those basics services. So why should we be suffering for the last almost four years?"

Shill and other four legislators from northeastern Kenya have called on the government to arm the community to defend themselves against al-Shabab militants who have claimed responsibility for the recent attacks.

Kenya police spokesman Charles Owino told VOA the request cannot be implemented, but the government will recruit and provide more security forces to guard the population.

Richard Tuta, a homeland security expert, says the population can be armed, but the right procedures have to be followed.

"Arming the community is not a bad concept," said Tuta, who adds that a key concern is how to arm people. "Like, for instance, there is a law as far as police reservists are concerned that there is a systematic way on how it should be done right from recruiting, vetting those who have been recruited, training them, giving them equipment, and having a structure of operation. If it's one that way, then it will be OK."

In the last three weeks, al-Shabab has killed 17 security officers. Some of them were killed when their vehicles hit roadside bombs.

Civilians have died as well, including a teacher killed last week in the Fafi area of Garissa County.

Attending a memorial service held for the slain security officers Thursday, Kenyan Interior Minister Joseph Nkaissery said the government will hunt down the terrorists behind the attacks.

"Criminals and terrorists whose despicable action caused the loss of these lives," Nkaissery said. "We have one message for you: you can run, but you cannot hide. One way or the other, we shall get you and when we get you, you will pay the price."

George Musumali, director of the Center for Risk Management in Africa, says some parts of the country are getting dangerous even for the police.

"You talk to the police on the ground they are saying that there are certain areas they cannot go to patrol because those areas are dominated by the al-Shabab," he said, "and unless we take drastic action to stop this, then definitely, we are seeing al-Shabab will be gaining more ground in northern Kenya and this is not going to augur well for the country."

The attacks come less than two months before Kenya holds presidential and parliamentary elections.

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